Welcome to Competitive Content: Creating a Content Strategy to Win Against Any Competitor, a joint webinar co-sponsored by seoClarity and eZdia, featuring Mark Traphagen, Vice President for Training and Product Marketing at seoClarity and Greg Harris, Vice President of Strategic Services for eZdia.
In this recording, we cover everything you need to know about creating a competitive content strategy based on my years in working with eCommerce brands. We've also included workflows and ideas on how you can take action within your organization, whether or not you currently use an SEO platform or various SEO tools.
Use the links below to navigate through the transcription for key takeaways and actionable insights to help build a competitive content strategy.
- Sifting Through Content Chaos
- Finding Wins Against Your Competitors
- Keyword Competitive Analysis
- Importance of Content Depth
- Understanding Your "True" Competitors
- Performing a Content Gap Analysis
- Creating Your Competitive Strategy
Mark Traphagen: I want to start out with a question here. It's the question that we all want to know if we're in the digital marketing space: what does Google want? And, we'd say the best result for a given search query, but what does that mean to you?
Greg Harris: Google has lots of opportunities, and in my experience, unless you're on page one, you're not going to get the results that you hope for. So, in order to get to page one, you sort of have to kick somebody else off of page one. To do that, it's about having a better result in Google's mind.
What this discussion is really focused on is how can we create a presentation that Google wants to displace somebody that's already on page one, and how do we send your page up to the top of the ranking?
Sifting Through Content Chaos
Traphagen: And I noticed that you made that point that to get there, you've got to kick somebody else off, which means it's what we call a competitive situation, right? Let's look at how competitive it is.
According to a report by Smart Insights, in just one minute, there are 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube, 1,440 posts uploaded on WordPress, and over 448,000 Tweets posted to Twitter. That's just a sampling; a slice of the amazing amount of content that is created every minute. So in one sense, you're competing against a lot. What we're going to get to in this webinar is focusing on where the real competition is for you and how you gain over them.
Before we go into Greg's particular approach to that, and the reason why we brought him here to share with you today, we have a way of approaching this at seoClarity, a way that we think through these problems to organize them and to approach them at scale, the kinds of content strategies that we believe lead to the biggest organic traffic results you're looking for.
We call this our search experience optimization. It's all centered around the experience that users have centering on the reason why they come to search and why Google wants to show them what it shows them (back to that first question!). Google wants to show the best result for any given query.
We start with usability and that's a technical SEO strategy. That's covering the things of making sure that your site is crawlable by the search engines, and making sure that it's understandable.
For these technical SEO strategies, I'm going to use a poker metaphor here and say they're the table stakes. They get you in the play, but they alone do not get you the win. You've also got to have relevant content because that gets you in the play. It lets Google know that you should be a player and in the set of queries that you're after. And, it keeps you in playing hand after hand. So, you need that content that's relevant that speaks to what's behind the queries that people are asking, who are looking for your products or services.
And then finally you need those authority signals. Of course, we think of those primarily as things like links, but Google has developed a lot of other authority signals over the years, ways of assessing:
- What is all the relevant content?
- What belongs in that first page?
- What belongs to the top of that first page?
I'm going to turn it over to you now and let's hear about your particular approach to that at eZdia how you find the wins against your competitors.
Finding Wins Against Your Competitors
Harris: Sometimes people mistakenly assume that if I fix all this stuff, I'm immediately going to go to page one. But, it doesn't quite work that way. You need to look like a better result for any given search query then everything else that Google has an option or any search engine has the option of listing first.
I like to start by doing some searches and looking at my competitors. So, take some key phrases. If you're an eCommerce site, taking category phrases and searching on different product categories, like some nice, broad, general terms. See who comes up on page one and then go through those results. One by one, look at the page, look at the content, and try to discern what their content strategy is. I then like to go a step further, not just looking at the page that ranks, but do a site level competitive analysis.
>> Key Takeaway from seoClarity
Stand out from the crowd with Competitive Insights from seoClarity, allowing you to sort through the mountains of data needed to understand your true competitive landscape and outrank your competition.
Schedule a demo to see how you can identify specific opportunities that will help you over rank your competition on a daily basis.
Now there are lots of tools on seoClarity that you can use to understand your competitors, their site strengths, and maybe their weaknesses, and try to get a sense for when Google looks at these competitors. Ask yourself: Why does it think that it's a stronger site than your site?
If Google thinks that a competitor is a stronger site, you might have to work a little harder in your content strategy. So that's what I mean by competitive content strategy.
Keyword Competitive Analysis
Ultimately I think that that every single keyword has a different strategy inherently. One of the things I like to do, I call it a keyword competitive analysis. Take 20 to 30 different keywords, similar to what we were just talking about, search on all of them, and then step through the page one results and simply select all the content and count the words. You'll see an example here (below) that I had done previously.
The first thing I did was I looked across the top row, which is the authority score. seoClarity can help you understand what the strength of the site is. And what I saw when I did this was that across the 20 to 30 keywords, the average authority score for the number one ranked result was a 65. And as you went down the page, what you saw was a slightly weaker site and all the way down to position number 10, and again, across these 20 to 30 words, the average authority score for position. Number 10 was a 55.
Now in this silly example, I created a there's a 94 on your site. You're much stronger. So this should be a fairly winnable battle, if you will. Then we talked a little bit about sort of what the average organic traffic is for that, for those bundles of keywords.
I like to also look at the CPC value of those keywords as a surrogate for what the value is of those keywords.
Importance of Content Depth
Finally, what I think is most important, take a look at the content depth. Content depth is nothing more than a word count. I think it's interesting if you look across (the chart posted above), you'll see that the number one ranked page for this particular bundle of searches average at 850 words - that's a lot of content, 850 words. It doesn't just magically appear. That is folks carefully creating content in order to purposely get to number one.
You can see that the average for the second position is half that. And you can see that it, that it goes down to position number 10. It doesn't look this way and every analysis, but the point is that if you want to get to number one, you may well be able to do it with the 170 of your site here content words, but in all likelihood, if it were me, I'd probably be aiming for something in the range of 250 to 300 words and see if that was enough.
Word count alone does not get you to the top of the page. It's all about the quality of the content. It's all about the positioning of your site and other content on your site. But assuming these are direct competitors that are close this is sort of how I try to form a competitive content strategy. Does that make sense, Mark?
Traphagen: It makes a lot of sense. And one of the things we need to think about is what you've given here is a great, basic approach. Anybody could do this! If you're a small site, you could do this by looking at the surface directly and using a spreadsheet and recording the data. There are all kinds of tools that you can use to find these metrics and get them in there, get them into a spreadsheet and then do your own analysis.
But, as you get up to an enterprise level site or a site with thousands, or millions of pages or more, you've got to think about ways to do this at scale. So, let me talk for a bit about how an AI-based platform, which seoClarity is can help you do that kind of thing at scale.
Understanding Your "True" Competitors
So, what we want to determine is our true top competitors. And notice I said true, and in this case online, because we're talking about search. The first thing that you've got to get past is who you assume are your competitors may not be your online competitors, or it may not all be the same.
If you operate in the brick-and-mortar space, the "real world" as we call it, you have stores, you probably know who your competitors are. Who else has the same kind of store out there and where else do your customers shop at? But it can be a little trickier to determine that online and not only who your online competitors are, but it can vary as as Greg was saying, it can vary at the keyword level can vary all kinds of levels.
One of the things that seoClarity does for you using our AI is to assess who your true online competitors are, because it can look across the entire competitive landscape, all the keywords on which you compete on and who at different levels is ranking for those and tell you who your true top competitors are, but you can break those down.
Then you can look at your targeted keywords, the main set of keywords that you've got out there that you want to go after. You can look at that the level of keyword groups in seoClarity, you can assign tags to keywords and make that automated so that large groups of keywords get tagged. And then look at those type, because you might have tagged by different search intents, by different product groups, all sorts of things.
>> Key Takeaway from seoClarity
As Mark says in the webinar, your true competitors are those brands that appear in an organic search alongside you in areas where you strive to rank. For brick-and-mortar businesses, actual online competitors may be another local business, or just an online brand altogether.
seoClarity helps you understand your true competitors at every level of competition in the following ways:
- Across All Tracked and Untracked Keywords
- Across All Targeted Keywords
- Keyword Group Level
- Keyword Level
- By Location & By Device
The Top Competitors Report aggregates all the tracked keywords from your keyword portfolio and then pivots the data—taking top ranking URLs for those terms and displaying who appears most frequently in top search positions (see below).
You can learn more about this exact framework on our blog, The Competitive Intelligence Framework: Understanding True Competitors.
Performing a Content Gap Analysis
As Greg was saying, at the individual keyword level, from keyword to keyword, exactly who your competition is will change. And then you want to do a content gaps analysis. And in that you want to look in two directions, your vulnerabilities and your opportunities.
Vulnerabilities are where you're getting beat; basically, where you're trying to compete, but you're getting beat. And one way you can do that in seoClarity that's very valuable is a trend analysis. You can see the changing trends in all those different levels that I just talked about over time and say, where are we gaining ground? Where are we losing ground? And then your content question then becomes, what content do we need to improve that we've been trying to compete with that, or build the authority of with things like (1) getting better links for it to take those vulnerabilities away and regain that ground and the second is to (2) look for opportunities.
>> Key Takeaway from seoClarity
To perform a content gap analysis within the seoClarity platform, navigate to Content Gaps and specify your domain, as well as any other domains whose keywords you would like to compare.
seoClarity's proprietary analysis methodology compares the keywords for which the selected domains rank. Additionally, users can add their domain to see where they don't rank and where their competitors do rank to get a complete picture of their industry.
You can learn more about our specific workflow in identifying content gaps in our blog post, How to Identify and Close Your Content Gaps.
This is where your competitors are not competing or where they're losing ground against you and you might be able to gain ground. Here's where you might think about creating new content or new sections of your site that would help you compete at that such as some of the ways that the the AI involvement at seoClarity can help you do these things at scale.
Let's go back to Greg. You, you start putting those things in action. You do that research, you know, what keywords you should be competing for, you know, the content that you need to improve. How do you know if you're doing it right?
Creating Your Competitive Strategy
Harris: The first part of the plan that we just talked about is all about creating a competitive strategy. And now it's time to actually start writing and seeing if it works. I come from a background with direct marketing where you measure everything and content is no exception.
We use this concept called return on content spend, which is designed to just be an ROI for content, similar to paid search, but all on the organic side, this is about what you invest and what you get back. It could be hours and time, but the metric itself talks about what works best. What you're trying to measure is the incremental benefit. Now, lots of people set up AB testing models. There's lots of software to help you do AB testing. Unfortunately, AB testing doesn't work when you're talking about SEO and about content, we need to create a page that Google sees.
Test and Control
When they come back every day, it should look exactly the same as it did the day before. So what we use instead of AB testing, we use test and control. Typically what we do is we go and we find product pages that are very average. We don't want the high flyers. We average pages. And we want to be able to go and take these average pages and randomly divide them between test and control.
Sometimes we do this at the product level. Sometimes we do it at the category level, but we want to take similar pages and separate them. The test group gets content. In fact, the test group might get a few different types of content. Maybe version one gets 250 words. Maybe version two gets 350 words plus a buying guide where you create long form content and then link to the category page or the product page or whatever you're testing.
Isolate and Measure
You want to then be able to isolate and measure. So, return on content spend is looking at the test group both before and after and looking to see what that lift is, but backing out any lift in the control group. What that does is it allows you to isolate just the content and its contribution because baked into the numbers of the control group are things like seasonality advertising and everything else you're doing to drive traffic and attention to your site or is going to be visible through the metrics in the control group.
The only difference is that the test groups got your content, you boil it all down. You figure out what your ROI is. You'll see that while it may take more effort to create a buyer's guide, may cost you more to create a buyer's guide - but, that might generate a higher ROI or similarly, maybe all you need are 50 words of incremental content, and that's enough to drive more profitable results.
It's really the idea that it's not enough to just try something and hope it works, that you need to have a plan to measure it isolated, and then build a strategy around that.
Traphagen: I love this Greg, because it's such a scientific approach. It really takes the guesswork out of it. It gives you a reason to make the changes and to know what changes you should make. So that's exactly the kind of approach that we want to have.
Harris: Yeah, you wouldn't want to guess if a certain type of medicine was going to cure a disease. Similarly, you don't want to guess as to whether the is going to work. You want to actually test it and feel comfortable that there's a positive impact.
Content Strategy at Scale with an Enterprise SEO Platform
Traphagen: Terrific. Let me end with just another level of where seoClarity's platform does this again at scale, and to expand those insights that you would have gained from the kind of testing that Greg is talking about even more deeply as you go on.
One of the things that we have built into our platform in our Content Fusion section is semantic analysis where we're talking about... finding the terms, the keywords that your competitors are using, what you're not, or where they're beating you (in the SERP) or where you're beating them. Do the analysis that we've talked about to see, and also do the kind of testing with new content or content improvements that Greg just talked about.
Another level of that though, is going for what we call semantic richness to realize that Google has become much more sophisticated over the years about not just understanding individual words on a one-to-one basis, but the whole universe of terms that go around.
Any keyword that you have has all kinds of related terms that Google has learned that can indicate that a piece of content or a site has more richness to it, more complexity, more of what the user might be looking for.
Using Content Fusion in seoClarity, you can find a related terms, for example, that are used by your competitors. You can actually put in a page or put in actual text right into the tool and see what other terms competitors who are competing with that content are using that you might want to incorporate into that content.
The benefits of that are at least two things. One is you're demonstrating a broader coverage of the topic, which is something that we've seen over the years that Google likes more and more you're increasing the relevancy. You're telling Google, we don't just have one page that gives one answer to this, but we've covered this topic. We're authorities on it. If somebody comes in on this page and wants to know more, they're going to find it on our site, or they're going to get everything that they need from that page.
Secondly, using a semantic relevancy like this increases your long tail potential there's an oft-quoted figure that Google has said that every day, 15% of the things entered into its search engine are combinations of words they've never seen before. That's an astounding fact! People search for things by all different ways and with the increase of voice search, that only becomes more so, so being able to rank for a lot of long tail potentials off of your content using this kind of semantic relevancy is a great thing to be doing.
As I mentioned, Content Fusion can help you to do that at scale using AI, because it's instantly looking at the whole universe of content that's actually competing against your content, or would be competing against a new piece of content that you're creating.
It also brings in some other resources, we incorporate Google's People also ask feature, which is just a great revelation, right? In the SERP saying, these are the questions that people search for most that we think this kind of content is relevant for. We bring that right into the tool, so you can see it and you can answer those questions. And then we also bring in a search intent. We use our AI to suss out what are the different intents that people are searching for that is relevant for this kind of content so that you can write to that intent.
These are just some ways of scaling up the strategies that Greg has been giving you today. I want to end by giving Greg the last word, anything else that you want to add? Also tell us a little bit about what eZdia could do for people who are watching this webinar today that would help them to do these things and actually implement what we've talked about today.
Harris: Thanks, I like to say that eZdia is really good at creating content. We know it's not enough to just write because it's a lot of fun to write that we need to make a business case around it. And so we help companies scale their content specifically for eCommerce sites. We're fortunate enough to work with some of the largest eCommerce sites in the world, from Amazon, Walmart, Staples, and many others. And we are more than happy to help you as a partner of seoClarity. We can both work within the tool and, and help you get that content into Content Fusion.
Traphagen: Just another great way to scale. We're talking about a lot about scale here as you know, employing experts like eZdia, who've been doing this for years and the kind of expertise that Greg has in the content that you need. Employing those kinds of things together, the AI power of seoClarity with a company like eZdia, who are just focused on that content as content experts, which might be the approach if you want to really grow your content strategy.
So, Greg, thank you so much for joining us today. We're so glad to be working with you. We're so glad to have your incredible knowledge shared with our audience today, and we look forward to next time we get a chance to talk with you.